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John Edwards heading back to private practice in N.C.

Former lawmaker and presidential candidate John Edwards, whose political career crumbled amid revelations of an extramarital affair and allegations of campaign finance violations, is heading back to private practice.

Edwards, who worked as a plaintiffs-side personal injury and product liability attorney in North Carolina before being elected to the U.s. Senate and later launching vice presidential and presidential campaigns,  is looking to start a new firm based in Raleigh, sources tell CNN (HT: National Law Journal).

Since receding from public view after his trial on the campaign finance charges resulted in acquittals on some charges and mistrials on others, Edwards has lived in Chapel Hill. He remains an active member of the North Carolina bar, according to CNN.

 

Confirmation battles loom over D.C. Circuit

Setting the stage for what could be the biggest judicial confirmation battles since his Supreme Court picks went before the Senate, President Barack Obama made three nominations to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C. – considered by most to be the second most powerful court in the country.

And with his nominations of attorney Patricia Ann Millett, U. S. District Court Judge Robert Leon Wilkins and Georgetown law professor Cornelia Pillard, Obama warned members of the Senate not to use stalling tactics or block the nominees.

“Chief Justice John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the highest court in the land, and former member of the D.C. Circuit Court says they need 11 judges,” Obama said yesterday in announcing the nominees.  “So it’s important we don’t play games here, and it’s important that we cut through the verbiage.”

The president also blasted a GOP proposal to reduce the number of judges on the court, which has long been one of the most fertile source of Supreme Court justices. Four of the nine current justices are former D.C. Circuit judges.

“When a Republican was President, 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit Court made complete sense.  Now that a Democrat is President, it apparently doesn’t.  Eight is suddenly enough,” Obama said, drawing chuckles from the crowd gathered in the White House lawn.  “People are laughing because it’s obviously a blatant political move.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, blasted what he called an attempt by the president to pack the appellate court for political gain. “It’s hard to imagine the rationale for nominating three judges at once for this court given the many vacant emergency seats across the country, unless your goal is to pack the court to advance a certain policy agenda,” said Grassley.  “No matter how you slice it, the D.C. Circuit ranks last or almost last in nearly every category that measures workload.”

 

Boehner underscores DOMA defense

On the first day of the new 113th Congress, House Speaker John Boehner made it clear that House Republicans will continue to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

The equal protection challenge to the law, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriage, will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this term. That case, Windsor v. U.S., was noted by name by Boehner and House Republicans in the language of the House rules, which authorized continued payment of legal costs with taxpayer funds, ABC News’ Ariane de Vogue reports.

A spokesman for Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi blasted the move, saying in part: “House Republicans will send a clear message to LGBT families: their fiscal responsibility mantra does not extend to their efforts to stand firmly on the wrong side of the future.”

 

Specter, former lawmaker focused on judicial issues, dies

Former Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania lawmaker who focused on issues affecting the judiciary, legal practice and consumer protection in a career that took him from the GOP to the Democratic Party, passed away over the weekend of non-Hodgkins lymphoma at 82.

Specter, a staple of the Senate Judiciary Committee, played a central role in 14 Supreme Court confirmation hearings, often working to build bipartisan support for nominees of both parties. Arlen himself voted to confirm justices from across the political spectrum from Justice Clarence Thomas to Justice Elena Kagan.

He also championed many issues important to lawyers, pressing legislation that would restore the “notice pleading” standard and overturn the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Ashcroft v. Iqbal and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly which set a higher pleading standard, a bill to amend the National Labor Relations Act to require employers to give unions more access to employees regarding representation before an election, and a measure to bar attorneys in any government department from requesting a waiver of the attorney-client privilege in exchange for consideration in criminal or civil investigations.

More on Specter’s career here from Lawyers USA.

Congress’ weakness is Supreme Court’s strength

The worse the Congressional logjam grows, the stronger the role of the U.S. Supreme Court in being the interpreter of laws, according to a new study.

The report from Prof. Richard L. Hasen of the University of California, Irvine School of Law points out that, ideally, Congress and the Supreme Court engage in a “dialogue on statutory interpretation” – lawmakers pass a law, the Court interprets the law, and then Congress has the power to overrule the Court by amending the law.

But when Congress is tied up in partisan gridlock – a growing phenomenon in recent years – it becomes harder for it to serve in this function. As a result, the Court gets the final word much more often.

The increasingly partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill can have other repercussions for Congress and the Court, the study states. “Aside from the statutory interpretation dialogue, Congress interacts with the Supreme Court in other ways, including through Senate confirmation of Supreme Court judicial nominees,” Hasen observed.” The recent partisan realignment of the Supreme Court makes it more likely that a Supreme Court judicial nominee will be filibustered in the Senate, thanks to the increasing willingness of Senators to oppose nominees on ideological grounds and increased partisan polarization in the Senate.”

The study was reported in the New York Times and by the ABA Journal.

GOP readies lawsuit against Holder

Congress is in the midst of a five-week summer recess, but that won’t stop some GOP lawmakers from filing a lawsuit against Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Lest week House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. told NBC News that Republican members of Congress will sue Holder to compel the release documents associated with the failed “Fast and Furious” gun-walking operation. In June, the House voted to hold Holder in contempt, but a U.S. attorney declined to prosecute Holder.

“We’ll be filing a civil case during the break,” Issa told NBC, “We will expect a day in court before a federal judge, which we have a 100 percent chance that the judge will hold that these documents should be delivered.”

Supreme Court term wraps, lawmakers ready ACA repeal vote

The U.S. Supreme Court’s October 2011 Term is in the history books, ending with a bang yesterday as the Court’s long-anticipated health care law ruling left the legislation largely intact.

But that doesn’t mean the debate over the law is over. House GOP lawmakers have already scheduled a vote to repeal the law for July 11, though it is unlikely such a measure would have enough support in the Democratic-controlled Senate to get off the ground.

We’ll bring you more on the law and its impact today and next week on Lawyers USA. As always, you can see all of our coverage of the high court on the Supreme Court Report.

 

AG Holder held in contempt of Congress

Capping an historic legal news day here in Washington, the House has voted for the first time in  history to hold a U.S. attorney general in contempt of Congress.

As lawmakers, including more than a dozen Democrats, voted to censure Attorney General Eric Holder, a group of Democratic lawmakers walked out of the House chamber in a planned, yet dramatic display of protest. The move came just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld nearly all of the federal health care law – making this a good day and a bad day for the Obama administration.

More on this story to come on Lawyers USA.

Lawmakers ask Court to televise health care decision announcement

Lawmakers are joining media organizations in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to allow broadcast coverage of its upcoming decision in the case challenging the federal health care law.

Leahy

In a letter sent to Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. Sen. Patrick Leahy,  D- Vt., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the committee’s ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, urged the Court to allow cameras in the courtroom for the announcement of the decision, which is expected next week.

“Given the fundamental constitutional questions raised and the effects the decision will have, the Court should be aware of the great interest Americans have in the outcome of this case,” the letter states.

Grassley

“Broadcasting the Court’s ruling would permit millions of citizens the opportunity to view what so few can from the court’s small and limited public gallery.”

The Court has never allowed cameras or any other type of electronic devices to be brought into the courtroom, and it is unlikely that the request will be granted. On occasion, the court has released same-day audio of oral arguments, but never for decision announcements.

Senate Republicans jump into recess appointment challenge

Republican lawmakers are officially jumping into the legal fight over President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And leading the GOP senators’ fight is a man who was blocked from a judicial appointment by Senate Democrats years ago.

Senate Republicans said yesterday they plan to file an amicus brief in the case challenging Obama’s authority to make the controversial appointments, according to the Washington Post. The White House has defended the validity of the recess appointments, and said they were necessary to keep the agencies operating as GOP lawmakers stalled nominees’ confirmation votes.

The Republican lawmakers brief will be authored by Miguel Estrada, a partner in the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher whose own judicial nomination to the D.C. Circuit was filibustered by Senate Democrats in 2001. (The news came, interestingly enough, the same day Estrada argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.)

“We think it’s the appropriate case,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., according to the Post. “And I thought that Miguel’s own experience with the confirmation process, that it might make particularly good sense for him to represent us in this particular undertaking.”

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